Wales politics

Welsh ministers may offer smacking vote before 2016 election

Child looking out of window Image copyright Other
Image caption AMs voted in favour of a ban on smacking in 2011

A government-backed vote to ban the smacking of children could be held before the 2016 assembly election.

Deputy Minister Gwenda Thomas promised the issue would be considered as part of future legislation.

The pledge came after at least two Labour AMs threatened to rebel and vote for a Plaid Cymru amendment in favour of a ban in the Senedd on Tuesday.

The amendment was defeated by 39 votes to 14, with one AM abstaining. Labour AMs were ordered to vote against it.

A smacking ban has widespread support across the assembly chamber and would be expected to achieve a comfortable majority in a free vote.

Campaigners want Wales to become the first part of the UK to outlaw the hitting of children.

Mrs Thomas told AMs: "There will be an opportunity to examine these issues in forthcoming legislation in this assembly term.

'Same protection'

"It would be good, I believe, to work on this on a cross-party basis in future."

The Welsh government had insisted it had no plans to legislate before the 2016 elections, and Labour AMs had been instructed not to back a Plaid Cymru amendment to the Social Services (Wales) Bill being debated on Tuesday.

In a statement, Labour AMs Christine Chapman and Julie Morgan, who have long campaigned for a ban, said: "We will continue with this campaign to make a ban on the physical punishment of children happen as soon as possible.

"This is about giving children the same protection as adults and we want this to happen sooner rather than later."

Conservative AM Darren Millar, an opponent of a ban, said there was "an obvious difference between discipline and abuse".

'Long-lasting legacy'

In an emotional speech, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams described the impact of being hit by by her mother.

She said: "My mother was a very loving and determined parent; she wanted the very best for me.

"But what started as a smack turned into something that I would regard as a lot more serious.

"And people often say in my family there is a reason why I became a politician and my sister became a child protection lawyer. There is a reason behind the choices that we made.

"She did it out of love, but actually I think any external examination of the situation would have said that she over-stepped the mark.

"The long-lasting legacy was that as an adult, even as an adult, if my mother moved a little bit too quickly by the side of me, I used to shrink back, I used to jump away, and that was the long-lasting legacy of physical chastisement."

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